Fox's Libya “Scandal” Implodes With Chris Wallace Fact Check

For weeks now, Fox News has been pushing the narrative that the Obama administration, and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice in particular, lied to the public or is engaged in a cover-up regarding the attack in Benghazi where a U.S. consulate was breached. In fact, as Fox's own Chris Wallace pointed out, the administration's response to the attack was informed by the intelligence community's best estimate.

During Fox's coverage of the vice presidential debate, Wallace stated that Vice President Biden had “back up” for his claim that the administration communicated the most accurate information it had about the attack. Wallace noted that the intelligence community's best assessment following the attack was that it “began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy” and that this initial assessment was provided to executive branch officials.

However, Rice and other administration officials have repeatedly been attacked by Fox News figures claiming they misled the public on what really happened in Benghazi, even though the administration's comments about Libya were in line with the intelligence community's best assessment at the time.

As Rice made clear in several interviews on September 16, an ongoing investigation would determine the true cause of the attack, but that the administration's “current best assessment” based on information available at the time was that the attack began as “a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo.” She continued: “In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.”

But on Wednesday, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer claimed that “everything that Susan Rice said was a confection, it was an invention.” On September 21, Sean Hannity stated:

HANNITY: [H]ow this event can evolve from an impromptu riot about a YouTube video to a premeditated terrorist attack in the span of a week -- well, that can be explained one of three ways. Number one, this administration is stupid, simple as that. Number two, this administration is on the receiving end of some of the worst intelligence in American history. Or number three, we are witnessing a widespread cover-up based on flat-out lies, all aimed to protect a president who happens to be running for re-election. I'm going with number three.

On September 24, Fox host Dana Perino agreed that “there was misleading” and that “the administration for 10 days said one thing and it turns out to be the other -- and they try to blow that off.” Other Fox News personalities have advanced the same claims.

In fact, as Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy said during congressional testimony on Wednesday:

If any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, September 16th, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said. The information she had at that point from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point. As time went on, additional information became available. Clearly, we know more today than we did on the Sunday after the attack. But as the process moves forward and more information becomes available, we will be sure to continue consulting with you

In a post at the Atlantic, national security expert Aki Peritz, a former CIA analyst, explained that those accusing the administration of lying about what happened in Libya “misunderstand intelligence.” He wrote: “This accusation not only misses the mark but also demonstrates how profoundly the accusers misunderstand how intelligence works. In fact, the White House's evolving timeline for what happened in Benghazi is proof of precisely the opposite of what the breathless accusers suggest -- it is a sign of a normal, healthy intelligence process.”